I watch a LOT of television. I often find myself picking up brand new shows when I’m already overloaded with other shows that I haven’t caught up on. As it stands right now, I have the entire last season of Falling Skies to get through before the new season begins. I only just NOW finished the second season of Hannibal, in anticipation for season three to begin. I’m way behind in Homeland, Penny Dreadful, Orphan Black, and a few others. Yet I find myself on Netflix searching for shows I’ve loved so that I can re-watch them. I just finished Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scrubs, and I’m on the final season of Lost. So when I decided to do this bi-weekly Binge Watch column, I wanted to pick a show that I hadn’t seen in some time. Jericho fit this bill nicely. I had only watched it the one time, while it was airing on CBS in its original, ill-fated run. The show barely lasted two seasons. It was canceled after its full first season, but due to a heavy fan based campaign involving a lot of peanuts being shipped to the network, it was renewed, only to be canceled again after just seven episodes. The series ran a total of twenty-nine episodes and spawned a continuing comic book series much in the way that Buffy has lived on in the panels of the Dark Horse Comics.
The series has a fairly simple premise, and its pilot throws you right into the fray. You’re introduced to the small, quaint, farm community of Jericho, Kansas. You get the feeling that everyone knows each other’s name…as well as all their secrets and embarrassing moments. You went to high school with all these people. After a small bit of exposition, introducing a few of the key players to the series, you see the main plot of the show. The country is attacked by an unknown enemy using nuclear bombs. And now we have a city and a country in the midst of its biggest tragedy ever, and their attempt to survive without power, without food, and through a bitterly cold winter in their first year post attack.
The characters are fleshed out fairly well. There’s Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich). The bad boy brother and younger son of the Green family. He’s been gone for some time and holds a mystery as to where he’s been. He’s only just come home to get his inheritance from his grandfather’s passing when the attack occurs. His brother Eric Green (Kenneth Mitchell) is the perfect son. He’s married to a doctor and is the Deputy Mayor of Jericho. Their father, Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney) is the Mayor and has been for a long time. He’s an old school, midwestern father. A former military man, he’s a by-the-books, strict and straight nosed father and leader. Their mother, Gail Green (Pamela Reed) is the voice of compassion and sometimes the emotional trigger on the show. She’s your mom. The wild card in the cast is Robert Hawkins (Lennie James). He’s only just arrived in Jericho with his family and he has a secret connection to the attacks but we don’t know what.
The rest of the cast is filled with the comedic relief, but in my opinion the true heart of the town in Stanley Richmond (Brad Beyer). He’s Jake’s best friend, and he’s the baseball loving, big brother, farmer of the town. He operates his farm with his deaf sister Bonnie (Shoshannah Stern), the farm in question is under audit for back taxes by the big city IRS agent Mimi Clark (Alicia Coppola). She starts off as the foil to Stanley, but they soon turn that into a very real and very touching romance. The young Dale Turner (Erik Knudsen) is orphaned after he finds an answering machine message from his mother who was in Denver calling to check in on him when the bomb hits. He would eventually inherit the local grocery store, and all the chaos that comes with trying to provide food and supplies for a city, while attempting to gain as much power as he can. Let’s just say he grows up quickly.
Throughout the course of the first season, our band of plucky heroes must overcome a lot of in-fighting and politics as a local election was about to happen before the bombs went off. Johnston Green was going up against Gray Anderson (Michael Gaston) who was still very much wanting the role of leader and was just waiting for his chance to point out all of Green’s mistakes, which would eventually lead to his taking over the office of Mayor…and subsequently making many fatal errors for his beloved Jericho, allowing his ego and need to be in control override his common sense. The townsfolk find themselves running up against a group of marines that mean to take supplies from them, road bandits that are killing and looting from people traveling between towns searching for salvation and food, a private military company that’s raiding towns as they find them, as well as an outside threat coming after the town's mystery man Robert Hawkins (I’m purposely leaving out his story, as his mystery is a fun part of watching this series if you haven’t yet.)
The build up to the finale is a conflict with neighboring town New Bern. Their mayor Phil Constantino (Timothy Omundson) begins a fight over food that leads to a bloody war that closes out the first season. It’s in the fight that we get our first major casualty of this war. Its an amazingly emotional scene that propels our characters into a new arc and a new season, leading to season two. The closing scene of season one is of the ensuing fight that’s about to begin, the screen fades to black as we hear an enormous amount of gunfire. Luckily, season two is on Netflix and you can binge right on into the next episode and see what happens next.
This series was a very family friendly drama with some fun mystery and intrigue. It had all the suspense of a political thriller with the anxiety of a survival story. The writing is top notch, and the acting performances are great from Regular Stars to the Guest Stars, which there are plenty of random characters roaming into our small streets of Jericho. The set is something to be desired, as you really only see one street in Jericho and its painfully obvious that its on a studio lot, but what can you do? The series had (and probably still does have) very loyal fans. I’m talking Firefly like loyalty here. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for an action filled show with some intriguing storylines that do eventually pay off.
I’ll be back in two weeks with my thoughts on the second and final season of Jericho!